It’s something that started hundreds of years ago but gold panning is still alive and well in Alberta.

In the late 1800s, people travelled through Edmonton looking to strike it rich in the Klondike Gold Rush.

The province has embraced that history. The key to the Alberta Legislature is made out of gold believed to have been found in a creek in the Edmonton area. Then, in 1962 the city named the annual summer festival “Klondike Days.”

While it’s since been renamed several times, that fair is what inspired at least one modern-day prospector.

“I first got into it at the old Klondike Days. I remember going with my parents to Klondike Days and we panned for gold,” explains Doug Winkleman.

Winkleman works for the RCMP by day but in his spare time he pans for gold.

“I guess you could say it’s kind of a passionate hobby,” Winkleman explained.

He says he’s one of a very small group who know it’s still possible to pan for gold in our area.

“There’s a lot of it just waiting for the taking. You just gotta know how. And it’s free,” he stated.

He’s sharing his secret by teaching classes right in the North Saskatchewan River showing people of all ages the tricks of the trade.

“One of the things is it’s a very inexpensive hobby to get into. You pick up a gold pan, 15, 20 dollars,” Winkleman said.

It’s also a time consuming hobby. You must slowly sift through large amounts of gravel, silt and rocks – carefully washing away the lighter material and leaving behind the much heavier gold. According to Winkleman it takes practice and patience.

Technology has changed the century-old trade though. While it’s still common to use a pan, many who gold pan frequently have running machines like Winkleman’s generator-powered “high-banker.”

Costing a little more than one thousand dollars, the machine can quickly collect piles of dirt with potential to produce up to twenty dollars in gold.

“It’s not uncommon that you can pull out an ounce or more of gold which will pay for that machine,” Winkleman admitted.

And while the payoff might be nice, Winkleman says it doesn’t make the experience.

“No matter what size of operation you do, big or small, it starts with a pan and it ends with a pan.”

With files from Bill Fortier